Tackling dental plaque remains one of the core challenges faced by dental professionals. After all, without plaque there would be no caries, but no matter how much you tell patients to clean their teeth properly (including interdentally) it’s likely that the majority of them will present with some plaque build up.
Traditionally this means that we have to get out the scaler – in many ways an unpleasant tool that can cause discomfort and set off patient anxieties, plus it can be a time consuming process. But what if there was a way to remove this plaque differently?
I’ve spoken before about the incredible steps forward that are being made regarding robotics in dentistry, but I have never before focused specifically on nanobots. By definition, nanobots are microscopic robots that measure a nanometer in size. Though still a developing field, a lot of fantastic breakthroughs have been attributed to these tiny robots, and non-invasive plaque removal may now be one of them.
According to an article I found on Science Daily, a team of biologists, engineers and dentists from the University of Pennsylvania have recently developed two different sets of nanorobots that effectively work as an intraoral cleaning crew.[i] Able to remove biofilms and sticky amalgamations of bacteria (such as plaque build up) these robots are controlled through magnetic direction and can concisely remove these issues as directed.
So what does that mean for dentists? This is just another remarkable example of how robotics and dentistry are fast becoming more entwined as we head towards the future. Like all nanobot innovations, this plaque removal concept is rudimentary at the moment, but I would not be surprised if this one day became the norm and manual scaling became superfluous. After all, if we can offer patients a non-invasive, more effective way to remove plaque build-up why shouldn’t we? This technology may also have further implications in the maintenance of implants or to prevent endodontic infections – we can only know how far these innovations will benefit us when they have been perfected. Until then, it’s scaling as normal, but don’t be surprised if robots soon come to the rescue.
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[i] Science Daily. An Army of Micro-Robots Can Wipe Out Dental Plaque. Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190425104323.htm [Last accessed May 19].